The new fleet is expected to become fully operational in 2021
5th Mar 2014
The new fleet is expected to become fully operational in 2021. Together with high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles, these aircraft will replace the Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orions that have served Australia so well for over four decades.
There are 18 Orions in service with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Delivered in the late 1970s the Aussie Orions fleet went through a comprehensive upgrade in the early 2000s, improving radar, ESM and other avionic capabilities.
The replacement of those aircraft comes under the Australian Defence Force?™s (ADF) Project Air 7000 plan estimated to cost about A$7 billion. Phase 2B outlines the manned element (Poseidon) plan with the follow-on phase 1B element defining the unmanned Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) element. Phase B will cost about A$3 billion and include six or seven Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones. A formal announcement expected later in 2014.
“The P-8 gives us an unprecedented capability to find, fix and track both surface ships and submarines,” RAAF chief Air Marshal Geoff Brown
The purchase of Tritons was opposed in military circles in 2012, due to its inability to carry weapons. The new government has backed the procurement, particularly for its exceptional area coverage capacity – the US Navy claims a Triton can monitor an area of close to seven million square kilometres in one operation.
The Australian acquisition would be the second international Poseidon sale for Boeing and the first international sale for the Triton UAS. The first eight P-8I ‘Neptune’ were ordered by India in 2009 for US$2.1 billion. Three have already been delivered to India. Additional four aircraft were ordered in 2011.
Boeing is expected to hand over the first Australian P-8 in 2017, with all eight aircraft delivered and fully operational by 2021. The Australian Government has also approved an option for a further four aircraft subject to the outcomes of the Defence White Paper review.
Extending the Reach of Maritime Surveillance
“The P-8 gives us an unprecedented capability to find, fix and track both surface ships and submarines,” RAAF chief Air Marshal Geoff Brown said. The P-8A has an unrefuelled range of over 4,000 nautical miles (7,500 kilometres) or the ability to remain on station conducting low-level Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW)
In addition to the military missions, Australia also need real-time surveillance in the vast sea areas north east of Australia, all the way to Sri-Lanka, to help find asylum seeker vessels on their way to Australia. On such non-military missions the Poseidon will work closely with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) aviation fleet, to secure ocean resources, including offshore energy resources off northern Australia.
Aussie P-8A to be More Mature Aircraft
The aircraft is equipped with the Raytheon APY10 maritime surveillance radar, providing all weather, day and night surveillance for surface, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission support.
“Increment 2 will have sufficient capability to allow the RAAF to replace one squadron of AP-3Cs, achieving initial operational capability in 2019.”